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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Oct. 17, 200212:00 PM EST

Furniture designer awaiting influx of downtown residents

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by: Monica Chamness

by Monica Chamness

Staff Writer

The word lush may invoke thoughts of bar flies in dark, smoke-filled rooms, but for Shannon Hughes, owner of Lush furniture and gift shop, it means something completely different.

“I see lush as something very soft, luxurious, over-the-top, comfortable,” said Hughes.

Previously named Caldo & Freddo (Italian for hot and cold), the name was changed in August when Hughes’ partner left. With the name change came a slight modification to the shop’s style. Open for three years, Lush offers classic and contemporary looks.

“We used to have more traditional, mixed contemporary and antiques,” he said.

“Now we do more soft contemporary. The focus before was on the store being a retail space. Now I use it more as an office to do my interior design.”

As sole owner, Hughes handles all the buying and designing for the shop.

With 12 years experience in design work, he is able to tackle projects for clients from Atlanta to Miami. Much of the work produced by Hughes and his two associates is customized to his clients’ specifications.

Hughes was reared and educated in Arkansas but moved to Florida for a change of scenery. Although his preference is towards soft contemporary decor, Hughes avoids patterns that are too trendy for his target market of young professionals. Clients’ tastes range from ultra modern to Olde English but extreme designs are not typically big sellers.

“Jacksonville is a very traditional city,” he said. “It’s a tough market. I’m still trying to figure out what Jacksonville wants outside of what everyone else has. I’m trying to reach a new clientele. I love the boutique idea and I would love to be a pioneer in Jacksonville. I want to be one of the big fish that brings something new to Jacksonville and I’m waiting to see if it happens. I think it’s happening fast, the change. There’s a broader need for the unusual and the interesting in the home. There’s a bigger population that is looking for unique interiors. I love to see these new looks coming out. It surprises me.”

Downtown revitalization and the influx of residential is something that Hughes is anxiously anticipating. Those young professionals with fresh ideas for their new lofts are exactly what he’s seeking. Springfield’s makeover offers potential, too. Hughes is already working with residents at Berkman Plaza on outfitting units there.

Regardless of the hottest look in home furnishings, Hughes maintains a certain standard of designs he’ll offer.

“The beach shabby/chic look is popular but I refuse to sell it,” he said. “I’m sick of it. I refuse to conform to that. My philosophy is to make people feel comfortable, gab with me, look through my catalogs and ask advice.”

For many years, Hughes dealt only in fabrics — draperies, upholstery and bedding. Through his exposure to the designers he worked with, he learned the industry and solidified his desire to design furniture and complementing pieces.

“I think people are intimidated by interior designers,” he said. “They think they’ll be raked over the coals. They think there’s too many rules or they worry about what they should do or what other people tell them but you must nest well to do well. Your home is your retreat.”

Formerly a doctor’s office, Hughes renovated the space to accommodate his furnishing samples and gift items. Recently, he cut down his floor space, relinquishing it to European Art Garage next door. Hughes maintains 15 clients at a time out of the remainder of the building. Soon, he will be subleasing even more of the facility to an event planner who is also expected to assist with the design process.

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